The top 10 most valuable players outside Europe’s big five leagues

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Darwin Nunez celebrates for Benfica, Luz Stadium 12 February 2022. Credit: PA Images
Darwin Nunez celebrates for Benfica, Luz Stadium 12 February 2022. Credit: PA Images

The most valuable players in world football are typically at Europe’s most prestigious clubs, the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or Liverpool.

But football does exist beyond the ‘big five’ European leagues – La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Premier League. And there is real talent emerging, particularly in Portugal and the Netherlands.

With the help of the CIES Football Observatory, we’ve taken a look at the ten most valuable players outside of the big five divisions.

10. Sebastian Haller (€39.6m)

The only player on this list over the age of 25, Haller has enjoyed a renaissance at Ajax after a disappointing couple of years with West Ham.

His 33 goals in all competitions – 11 in the Champions League – have fired the Ivorian back to prominence. Europe’s hottest striker (not named Benzema)? Quite possibly…

Ajax striker Sebastien Haller Credit: PA Images
Ajax striker Sebastien Haller Credit: PA Images

READ: Biggest surprise of 21-22? Sebastien Haller is Europe’s hottest striker

9. Charles De Ketelaere (€39.9m)

Leicester are on the hunt for another precocious Belgian. Arsenal want him, too. And so do Milan, and Manchester United, and Borussia Dortmund.

That’s according to the ever-reliable rumour mill. What’s certain is that De Ketelaere, Club Brugge’s talented young forward, is in demand.

The 21-year-old, who can also play as a midfielder, has scored 14 goals this season.

His clinical finishing, as well as his physical presence, makes him an attractive prospect.

8. Diogo Costa (€41.4m)

No, not Diego Costa. It’s been a long time since he was worth upwards of €40m.

Diogo Costa, though, is an entirely different prospect. Porto’s goalkeeper is on the up, having impressed with a string of excellent performances this season.

A superb shot-stopper with the high-quality distribution required of a modern No.1, the future looks bright for the Brazilian. Could the 22-year-old be the eventual successor to Alisson and Ederson for the Selecao?

7. Goncalo Ramos (€42.9m)

Overshadowed somewhat by the exceptional Darwin Nunez at Benfica this season, Ramos is another exciting attacking prospect.

The 20-year-old has netted seven goals in the Portuguese top flight this season, but only started 16 games, with 12 appearances off the bench.

6. Pedro Goncalves (€49.2m)

Portugal is where it’s at in 2022. More specifically, Sporting is where it’s at.

There are several young players emerging as real talents in Lisbon, not least Pedro Goncalves (aka Pote).

The attacking midfielder has, predictably, been dubbed ‘the next Bruno Fernandes’, though it’s easy to see why. He is a genuine goal threat playing behind the striker, with 13 goals in all competitions this season, and a starring role in Sporting’s surprise title win last term.

And nine assists takes his total contribution to over 20 goals. At 23, Goncalves is already looking like a special player. Wolves, who sold the Portugal international in 2019, may be feeling some pangs of regret now.

5. Matheus Nunes (€49.5m)

Another Sporting player, and another with a growing reputation in Europe.

Any young footballer publicly praised by Pep Guardiola is likely to see his value rise, so it’s hardly a surprise that he is now worth close to €50m.

“Matheus Nunes is one of the best players in world football,” said the Manchester City manager after his side beat Sporting 5-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

The gifted box-to-box midfielder has been linked with a host of Premier League clubs, including Wolves, Everton and Newcastle, but his focus, it seems, remains on success with Sporting.

“My desire is to stay at Sporting for as long as possible,” Nunes said earlier this year. “I want to achieve many more things and win every game to keep learning and growing.

“My focus is to improve and I don’t think about anything else. This day of thinking about another league may come – or not.”

4. Cody Gakpo (€49.7m)

Linked with a move to the Emirates, would Gakpo be a good fit for Arsenal?

PSV Eindhoven's Cody Gakpo celebrates scoring against Utrecht at Philips Stadion, Eindhoven, December 2021. Credit: PA Images
PSV Eindhoven's Cody Gakpo celebrates scoring against Utrecht at Philips Stadion, Eindhoven, December 2021. Credit: PA Images

READ: Everything you need to know about Arsenal target Cody Gakpo

3. Goncalo Inacio (€52.2m)

Sporting player number three on this list, Inacio is a defender playing with a maturity beyond his tender age.

Unfortunately for the Portuguese club, keeping hold of such prospects for the long term is rarely a possibility. Already, Premier League clubs are circling, with Newcastle the apparent frontrunners to sign the 20-year-old.

A defender of real quality, Sporting manager Ruben Amorim has described Inacio as a “non-negotiable asset”, but it remains to be seen where his future lies.

2. Antony Dos Santos (€57.5m)

There have been suggestions that Erik ten Hag may look to bring Antony along with him to Manchester United from Ajax, and few would begrudge the young Brazilian that move.

He’s excelled this season, scoring 12 goals in all competitions from a wide right position and tormenting full-backs across the Netherlands.

“Every player under his guidance becomes a better footballer through his training,” Antony said of Ten Hag.

“Since my arrival, he has given me a lot of confidence and believed in what I can do.

“I am grateful to him for that. I respect him very much.”

A continuation of their relationship at Old Trafford, then, is certainly not out of the question.

 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

READ: Five Eredivisie players Erik ten Hag could sign for Manchester United

1. Darwin Nunez (€70.7m)

Liverpool fans will know all about Nunez.

The Benfica forward scored in both legs of his side’s Champions League quarter-final against the Premier League team, impressing despite a 6-4 aggregate loss.

Six goals in that competition and 26 in the Portuguese top flight mean Nunez is hot property. He’s been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool, while Manchester United are also interested.

The 22-year-old can play off the left of a front three or behind the striker, so that kind of versatility will only add to his surging value. Expect to see Nunez at one of Europe’s top clubs next season.

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